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Int J Histor Archaeol 

DOI 10.1007/sl0761-013-0216-3 

What He Thought... What He Did: An Archaeological 
Study of the Persian Gulf Coasts Colonial Sites of Sheikh 
Khazal Khan in the Early Twentieth Century 

Leila Papoli Yazdi 

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013 

Abstract Iranian colonial sites on Persian Gulf coasts include eighteenth-century 
Portuguese fortresses and graveyards on the islands of Hormoz and Qeshm and 
twentieth-century British colonial missions in southern Iran and Kuwait. Sheikh Khazal 
Khan, an Iranian Arab, who lived in the early twentieth century, ruled Khuzestan and 
counseled the governors of Kuwait. He also apparently worked as Great Britain's political 
dependent in the region at least from 1 890s. He constructed five palaces on the shores of 
southwestern Iran and two in Kuwait. The author excavated these sites in 2008. Khazal's 
identity is a problematic subject in contemporary Iranian history. He is judged variously as 
a spy (for most Iranians) and as a hero (for Pan- Arabs). Introducing Khazal Khan's Persian 
Gulf coastal architectural data, this essay explains the context in which these colonial 
architectural units were constructed. The patterns of this colonial process are used to 
interpret Khazal's identity, based on the material culture of the era. 

Keywords Persian Gulf- Colonial sites • Sheikh Khazal • Identity 


Iran was noticed by the great powers of the day — Great Britain and Russia — in the first 
decades of twentieth century just after discovering oil in its southwestern region, Khuzestan 
province (Andreeva 2007). The Qajar dynasty (1779-1924) was too weak to react against 
its enemies who dreamed of an independent Khuzestan. In this situation, the kings gave 
more power to the local chiefs and among them, the local chief of Khuzestan, Khazal. 

Sheikh Khazal is one of the most mysterious characters of Iran's contemporary 
history. His problematic personality and identity have led most historians to remain 

L. Papoli Yazdi (M) 

Institute for Near Eastern Archaeology, Huttenweg 7, 14195 Berlin, Germany 


L. Papoli Yazdi 


Published online: 31 January 2013 <£} Springer 

Int J Histor Archaeol 

silent about him. Clearly, people create new rhythms of identity (Given 2004), as 
Khazal did in several situations. He changed his identity and even his ethnicity from 
Arab-Iranian to Arab in a conscious process to obtain Great Britain's attention (see 
Jones 1997, p. 82). In a long term process, his assistance to Britain portrayed him 
negatively in Iran's contemporary history, and this accounts for the profound silence 
about him. 

Archaeological monuments and artifacts are just one element in the construction of 
cultural identity (Shanks 1992, p. 115). But objects and people are dynamic (Geismar 
and Horst 2004; Meskell 1998, p. 240) and both can be used to reconstruct the 
interests of their creators. This research project assumed that the Khazal's agency was 
of a dominant individual acting in his own self-interest (after Gillespie 2001) and in 
result, that this affected the style of his monuments. His negative image has influ- 
enced his sites, too, because most his palaces in Iran have been destroyed or 
repurposed after the 1978 revolution. Given this historical reality, his two main 
monuments in Kuwait were excavated in the effort to reveal his concealed identity 
through the material culture. 

The study of identity has been largely ignored by archaeologists in the Persian 
Gulf (Insoll 2005), even by those working on the recent past. But actually, it seems 
that the interests and tastes of historical personalities of the region have changed the 
destination and perspective of the whole area, as Khazal has done. In this article, 
Khazal's identity and his everyday life are reconstructed based on his monumental 
remains in Kuwait. 

Historical Narration: Sheikh Khazal and His Dreams 

During the 1910s, oil was gradually being discovered in southwestern Iran in the 
towns and villages of Khuzestan province (Fatemi 1954). The feeble Qajar kings 
understood they could use this potential to attract the great powers of the day — Great 
Britain and Russia — to help them re-establish their authority. This was the beginning 
of a long-term, cultural-political process. 

The traditional rulers of the Iranian- Arab province of Khuzestan were the ancient 
tribe of Al-i- Ka'b. Khuzi people are the ancient settlers of this part of Iran who today 
mostly speak Arabic (see Marashi 1994). Haj Jaber Iben Yousef was the formal chief 
of Khuzestan in the 1880s (Strunk 1977). When he died in his mid 90s, his eldest son, 
Mazal, became the chief. It seems that in his short reign, he was not able to affiliate 
with Great Britain and control Khuzestan's ports. Mazal's younger brother, Khazal, 
then killed him in Mohammarah (Whigham 1903, p. xi), and in 1897, Sheikh Khazal 
became the chief. He then sent a message to the British embassy in which he stressed 
his interest to represent Britain in the region. It was his first step in becoming Britain's 
formal deputy and the beginning of a process in which Khazal saw himself as an 

Khazal's trade activities based on oil began in the mid 1910s, immediately after the 
discovery of oil in 1908. Due to his cooperative attitude, Sheikh Khazal had been 
made a knight commander of the Order of the Indian Empire in 1910 (Burrell and 
Jarman 1997, p. vii). In 1909, he negotiated the Cox-Khazal agreement on behalf of 
the Anglo-Persian oil company (APOC) which included no input from the central 

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government of Iran, despite it being a major shareholder (Farmanfarmaian 2008, 
p. 219). Khazal wanted to assume responsibility for the safety of the oil fields in 
Arabia (Ferrier and Bamberg 1982, p. 393). 

Sheikh got married to more than 30 women, who were mostly from politically 
powerful families (Van Ess 1961, 1974), such as the daughter of the ruler of 
Khuzestan, "Hosein Gholi Nezamal Saltane Mafi," Batool Fakhralsaltaneh who 
was the first wife of Khazal (he eventually died in her house in Tehran) (Cronin 
2007; PoorKazem 2004). He especially chose the daughters of local tribes in order to 
unite them with his own tribe. 

In 1914, the military secretary of India advocated a campaign in Mesopotamia to 
defend the British position in the Persian Gulf and specifically to confirm the Sheikhs 
of Muhammareh and Kuwait in their allegiance. Although Tehran considered Khazal 
an Iranian subject, the British believed that the government in Tehran had not 
exercised effective authority over him or indeed over the other Iranian territories 
(such as Luristan and Bakhtiari) that bordered his dominions (Ahmadi 2008, p. 29). 
Sheikh Khazal was encouraged to disregard the Iranian Government and to establish 
an autonomous Sheikhdom in Khuzestan and to bring the oil bearing territories under 
British suzerainty and control (Majd 2001, p. 242) 

Khazal had a close relationship with Sheikh al-Jaber al- Mubarak Kuwait Amir 
(Karsh and Karsh 2001, pp. 139-140) and made a treaty with him (Mansoor 1972). 
He went to Kuwait as Britain's representative in 1914 and built two palaces in Al 
Kuwait city near the Persian Gulf coast to house some of his 33 wives in the newly 
established Kuwait (Van Ess 1961). 

During the First World War, British representatives met Khazal in Kuwait and 
promised that he would become king of some parts of the divided Ottoman Empire 
(Strunk 1977), his greatest dream. But everything changed with the emergence of 
Reza Khan. It was rumored that Ahmad shah (the last Qajar king) was inciting the 
Sheikh in order to make trouble for Reza Shah (Daniel 2001, p. 134). 

The coup d'etat of 1921 was assisted by the British government. Reza shah 
established the Pahlavid dynasty, which began to suppress the federal rulers of 
Qajarid Iran (Ghani 2001, pp. 270-273). The Sheikh refused to pay his annual 
tax and the conflict began. Khazal allied himself with the Majlis opposition to 
Reza Khan. In a number of letters to the opposition leader, Modarres, the 
Sheikh revealed himself as a staunch constitutionalist, a devoted Iranian nation- 
alist (Cottam 1964, p. 113). 

Reza travelled to Bushehr and his saber-rattling, along with the concentration 
of Iranian soldiers around Ahwaz, were sufficient to get Sheikh to request a 
negotiated settlement. The Sheikh looked to London to protect him, but the 
British saw his position as untenable and favored Reza as a bulwark against 
Soviet Communism. When he realized that the British had abandoned him, he 
disbanded his Arab forces and retired to Muhammareh (Ward 2009, p. 139). He 
united the nomadic tribes of southern Iran with the goal of creating an 
independent Khuzestan (Mackey and Harrop 1996, p. 167). He wrote several 
letters to parliament and to senators requesting help, but he received no useful 
responses. Reza Shah attacked Khuzestan and captured Sheikh; Khazal and his 
elder son were exiled to Tehran in 1925. He was strangled in his house in 
1936, at the age of 75 (Strunk 1977). 

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The Problem of Khazal's Changing Identity 

Khazal's identity is a problematic subject; he is a hero in the mind of the Pan- Arabs of 
Khuzestan and a traitor spy to Iranians. He is now one the subjects of discussion 
between Iranian Arabs and Iranian Fars Nationalists: was he a hero or a traitor? (see 
Berbeglou 2006). 

Khazal was born and raised in Iran and was educated in Islamic theology while his 
mother was from one of the most powerful politician families of Iran. Khazal 
apparently started to act as an Arab after becoming the main ruler of Khuzestan. 
He began to neglect the Reza Shah's authority, write and speak only in Arabic 
(Wright 2001), change his lifestyle, clothing, and trying marriage traditions 
more as an Arab than as an Iranian or Iranian Arab. It is notable that in 
traditional societies such as Iran, the behavioral grammar of each individual 
represents her or his tribal or ethnic relations, and is evident in the clothing, 
ornaments, accent, and words they use. One of the basic conflicts between non- 
Iranian Arabs and Iranians is whether one is Sunni or Shiite; the Arabs are 
mostly Sunni, while the Iranians are Shiite. This division was one factor that 
complicated the issue because Sheikh increasingly tried to connect with Sunnis 
(see Wilberforce Harrison 1924) 

Photos show that Khazal chose Arabian clothing in mid 1910s; before 1910 he 
always tried to wear formal Iranian clothing in his photos (Fig. 1). Afterwards, he 
began to write letters to the central government of Iran in Arabic, attaching a Persian 
translation. Clearly, changing one's language is a key element in the process of 
changing one's identity as language (Dark 1995). Furthermore, Khazal's new behav- 
ior — such as changing his residence from Iran to Kuwait and his several marriages — 
represent his interest in acting Arab (who often practice polygamy). No one, however, 
has been able to study his private life, so what we know of him derives from his life as 
a politician. 

Fig. 1 Sheikh Khazal in formal 
Iranian clothes (Courtesy, The 
Center for Contemporary History 
of Iran Research, Tehran) 

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The most important question about Khazal as an individual is his identity, for had 
he changed his identity to accept his new social roles (Winstone et al. 1972)? How 
can we reconstruct his identity (see Orser 2001). How can the material culture help us 
to accomplish this work of reconstruction? How can the fragmented data help us to 
discover his ways of thinking in both its Arabian and Persian frames of reference? 

Obviously, it can be assumed that individuals have more than one identity and that 
they can change them throughout their lives (Shelach and Pines 2006). In the case of 
Sheikh Khazal specifically, how can we learn about such shifts from the available 
material culture? According to Khazal's negative image among Iranians and Arabs, 
analyzing him neutrally is difficult. He has always been ignored and as archaeological 
research is today considered inherently political in nature (see Meskell 2001, 2002), 
studying him without such premises actually conflicts with the reality of local hate 
which attaches to his name. 

We can hypothesize that Khazal changed his identity through time and his social 
needs, because an individual's identity shifts and changes (Wilkie 2001). It can also 
be assumed that he consciously had two different identities — Iranian and Arab — as 
social skins (Shelach and Pines 2006) that helped him act in different roles. 

Finding Khazal's hidden identity was one of the main goals of the excavation 
performed on his extant architectural structures in Kuwait. The excavations concen- 
trated on Khazal's two main buildings Diwanieh and Al Ghanem. 

Khazal Buildings in Kuwait: Diwanieh and Al Ghanem 


Two of the largest buildings in Kuwait in the early twentieth century — and greatly 
influenced by the Iranian architecture of the time — were built by Sheikh Khazal 
(Lewcock 1978, p. 34). One of them, Deewanieh, is located in the northeastern part of 
Kuwait City. The building is currently destroyed and in a very bad state of conser- 
vation. It is mainly made of cement, bricks, sea rock, and wood. The form of its 
destruction suggests, among other things, a sudden demolition which may have 
occurred during the Gulf War. 

The main research question in Deewanieh (Fig. 2) was to discern the periods of 
residence and to document possible changes in the building's architecture. Since 
Deewanieh was built by Sheikh Khazal to serve as his administrative center, it had 
never been used as a residence. After his death, changes were made to the building 
when it was reorganized and redesigned as the first Kuwait National Museum during 
the 1950s-60s. Later, the building was completely abandoned. The proximity of 
Deewanieh to the British Embassy and Qasr Al Ghanem adds to its importance. 

Trench I 

Trench I was 3 x 4 m in dimension and located in the southeast corner of Deewanieh. 
The original extension of the room was 5 x 4 m in size. When the excavation began, 
the room in which Trench I was placed was filled with debris, architectural fragments, 
burned wooden pieces, tiles, and cement rubble. Two dips were observed along the 

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Fig. 2 The eastern view of Dee- 
wanieh (photo by M. Naeemi) 

eastern and northern walls. A narrow window with a height of approximately 40 cm 
from the current surface of the central corridor is located in the northern wall. The 
base point of excavation was selected from the hexagonal entrance of the building 
(Fig. 3). 

The upper layers of the trench contained a mixture of different materials, including 
soil, burned wood, broken glass, electric wires, and an accumulation of debris that 
can be hypothesized as from the second floor. The tile fragments indicate that the 
second floor had been covered with 20 x20 cm tiles on which no sign of burning was 
found. The glass pieces have been altered, but not completely melted. 

The remains of the first floor roof contained pieces of sacks, cement, and mats. 
Fragments of porcelain and metal were also located. Furthermore, a broken glass, an 
empty potpourri, and torn pieces of cloth were discovered in western part of the 
trench. One of the most significant finds was a metal object with porcelain parts 

Fig. 3 Trench I at Deewanieh 
(reconstruction by M. Lavasani) 

1 1 

I 1 


1 u 




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which seems to be part of a telegraph machine. A stained and crushed metal bed was 
located at the southern part of the trench. 

Trench II 

Trench II was excavated in a northwestern room with the purpose of determin- 
ing its function and stratigraphy. The room was limited with alveolar walls 
from the east and west and acceded by a central corridor from the south and 
the corridor from the north. 

The room was filled with debris. Stratified fragments of tile and glass — including 
one piece of decorative glass — were identified. The floor was at the same level as 
Trench I. Three metal pans, 2 trays, and a plate were found on the floor. Moreover a 
30 cm-diagonal object, presumably part of an explosive device, was also found 

Trench III 

According to the Deewanieh model and its plan in the Kuwait museum, we 
hypothesized that three columns had been in the entrance of the building and 
along its central corridor. Trench III was excavated in the entrance to test this 
hypothesis. This trench was located in the eastern part of the building with an 
extension of 500x150 cm. This trench pendant was a 40°angle its height in 

Reaching the floor, the tiled floor was swept and a hole was observed in the 
northern part of the trench. This 15 cm-diagonal hole was 33.1 cm deep and 
contained sea sand, small pieces of wood, and bird bones, all of which were 
burnt. A yellow-brick floor was observed beneath the fill layer. The hole is 
uniform and could not have been used as column base; furthermore, it is too 
deep to be a column. 

Fig. 4 Trench II at Deewanieh 

(reconstruction by M. Lavasani) 

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The identified cultural material found in Deewanieh indicate that the building 
had been used in four distinct phases. The lowest floor (the brick floor in 
Trench III) is the first phase of the building and the original one. The cemented 
floor (identified in Trench I) represents the second period, which seems to be 
prior to the use of the building as the National Museum. During the third 
phase, the floors were refurnished with tiles (20^20 cm). This is the era of the 
National Museum. The fourth phase dates to between the time of the Museum 
and its demolition, around 1990. 

No information could be collected from the first phase of the building's occupa- 
tion. Moreover, the continuous changes in its plan have obliterated the original 
perception of the building. The concrete walls and blocks of the second floor are 
probably the result of these changes. 

Based on the Trench III data, we cannot rely on the existing model's shape and 
plan to recreate the building's features and specification; consequently, archaeological 
and architectural investigation should be conducted to acquire the needed 

The most readily available data are related to the fourth period of the 
building's use, when laborers occupied it. According to collected data, they 
used the eastern and northern parts of the building for rooms and as a kitchen. 
However, the data obtained from the Trench I demonstrate that the room may 
have been used systematically. Identification of objects such as the telegraph 
machine, several pieces of wire, fragments of cloth, and a bed indicates that 
someone lived in the room before 1990. 

The 1990 invasion of Kuwait presumably could be considered as the main cause of 
the building's destruction. An explosion may have caused the second floor to fall 
down. However, as traces of burning are observed close to the floors, it may be 
assumed that the building was burned down before the presumed explosion, a 
hypothesis that should be examined in the future by a careful analysis the burned 
wood and glass. 

Qasr Al Ghanem 

Qasr Al Ghanem (Bayt Al Ghanem) is one of the two buildings built by Sheikh 
Khazal in the 1 920s and used by him and his family. The place was later occupied by 
Al Ghanem family until the 1970s. The house, with its exceptional architectural 
features, began its gradual deterioration and ultimately almost complete breakdown 
after the family left it. Some of its architectural differences with the other buildings in 
Kuwait are explained by Lewcock (1978). For example, the men's reception room has 
a row of a high arched the windows that appear on the external facade. This design is 
completely different from the common pattern of architecture in Kuwait. The en- 
trance doors are a particularly fine pair with a cluster of four bosses at the end of each 
row of boss-headed nails. These entrance doors are unusual in having no provision 
for a smaller door within them (Fig. 5). 

The architecture of Qasr Al Ghanem was greatly influenced by Iranian desert 
architectural forms and concepts, particularly by the use of wind towers and the 

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Fig. 5 Maps of Al Ghanem (by M. Talebian) 

division of spaces. The archaeologists were able to follow the structural changes in 
the building through time. 

The sociopolitical significance of the house and its proximity to the British 
Embassy and Deewanieh, as well as to the sea, are factors which deserve further 

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study in order to find its place and role in the sociological and political settings of 
Kuwait during the first half of twentieth century. 

The main purpose of the excavations at Qasr Al Ghanem was to investigate the 
different periods of its use. Accordingly, four tests were made. In general, a few 
concealed architectural structures were found in the courtyard and some materials 
were identified on the first and second floors. All these data support the fact that that 
the place should be further and more precisely studied and excavated in order to 
examine its several periods of use. 

Trench I 

Trench I was opened in the two complex rooms on the second floor and in its 
southwestern corner. The second floor was filled by the roof debris and 
rubbish. As the trench was in the second floor, only the rubbish was removed 
and cleaned, trying to reach to the main floor of the second floor. All the 
debris was removed till the room floor itself was cleaned completely. Initially 
two broken sofas were observed on the floor with their coverings completely 
removed. Soil, dust, and architectural fragments were scattered all over the 
floor (Fig. 6). Unexpectedly, the original data were observed only after removing 
10 cm dust. Surface data consisted of a fishing string, a metal spoon, papers, 
and old shoes. Excavation in the second room resulted in identification of a 
large number of documents, books, and newspapers. 

Trench II 

The second trench was placed in the southeastern part of the first floor with an extension 
of 2 x 2 m. The tile surface of the courtyard was selected as the base point. Before 
excavation, the basement was packed with architectural debris. The southern part of the 
trench was limited by the basement wall on which two shelves were observed. The 
identified data consisted of pieces of mats from the roofs, broken lumber, and bricks. A 
broken heater had fallen on its backside. A broken pan was observed on the floor, which 
was composed of 20x20 tiles. The southern and eastern walls of the basement were 

Fig. 6 Trench I at Al Ghanem 
(photo by M. Naeemi) 

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covered by ornamental bricks. Excavation in Trench II was terminated after reaching the 
floor because the walls were considered unsafe because of large cracks. 

Trench III 

In general, two cement structures were recognized in the southern courtyard of Bayt 
Al Ghanem. Two small windows, one opening to a channel and the other to a small 
underground room, were present. Trench III was in fact a kind of chasing trench 
which was designed to discover the form of unidentified structures in the southern 
courtyard (Fig. 7). 

A 2.5 m-long diagonal pool was located on the southwestern part of the southern 
courtyard. The pool was covered by six rows of bricks 11x15 cm and 15 x 30 cm in 
dimension. The western part of the pool terminates in a cemented hatch with a central 
hole through a 10 m-long channel. A 4 m-long cemented channel extended from the 
southern section of the room toward the southeast, ending in a 3.7 m cemented, 
circular structure. 

The structure was cut through in three points to determine its internal composition. 
Its northern and southern sections were filled with sea rock while an empty space at 
its center was full of crystal clear water. This structure was thus probably used for 
water purification. 


Based on the identified materials from Qasr Al Ghanem three general periods of 
habitation can be assumed. The first period is when it was used by Sheikh Khazal's 
family. Apart from its plan and general perspective no other data are available from this 
period. The second period is when the building was used by the Al Ghanem family. The 
evidence so far identified from this period shows that the Al Ghanem family had good 
relations with the outside world, especially with the European and Islamic countries and 
in particular with Egypt. One of the daughters apparently studied at the Alexandria 
English Girls College in 1950s. The documents also indicate that the family was 
engaged in a trading business. 

Fig. 7 Water treatment structure H 
at Al Ghanem (photo by M. 

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The Al Ghanem family changed the initial plan of the house. They added some 
spaces to the southern courtyard, modified the facades and the entrances, and altered 
the functions of some of the spaces, for example the room to a bathroom. 

The abandonment of the house probably began when the Al Ghanem family began 
to leave around 1965. Based on oral information, a Palestinian family lived in the 
house as its custodian, after the Al Ghanem left. This family settled for about 1 years 
in the southern rooms. 

Based on the historical data, the structure and architectural remains the first period of 
the building's occupation could date to the 1920s, when Sheikh Khazal actually entered 
Kuwait. The location of Qasr Al Ghanem and Deewanieh within the third historical wall 
of Kuwait increases the plausibility this hypothesis (Al Rashid 1977). It should also be 
noted during the first and second periods of its occupancy that the building was a high 
socioeconomic properly, but that it was downgraded during the 1 970-90 period. 

Architectural Style 

The two sites of Al Ghanem and Deewanieh were excavated preliminarily in the 
autumn of 2008. Deewanieh, with three floors and two destruction episodes, is a five- 
period building, while Ghasr Al Qanem had three periods. The difference between 
two buildings is that the Deewanieh periods formed vertically and those at Al 
Ghanem horizontally. The cause of this difference stems from demolition and war 
at Deewanieh, and gradual abandonment at Al Ghanem. 

The buildings at both Al Ghanem and Deewanieh were built by Sheikh Khazal in 
the 1920s. Modernization has changed the perspective of both buildings but each can 
be reconstructed. These buildings can be studied as historical case studies compared 
against buildings in southern Iran dating to the first half of the twentieth century. 

Deewanieh is completely comparable to Malek Palace in Bushehr. This palace is 
contemporary with Deewanieh and has been belonged to Haj Malek al-Tojar, Bushehr 
chief in the last decade of the Qajar dynasty (Hatam 1997; Razi 1985). The palace had 
formal and administrative functions during most of its history. 

Malek palace was built by French architects, but its style is derived from a local 
style called "Bangleh." As observed in Malek Palace, Qajar architecture is largely a 
mixture of local and Western styles with a return to Sassanian style (Bosworth 1996; 
Michell 1978). It can be assumed that Khazal has completely copied the architectural 
style of that building; it is distinctive that the general plan, decorative style, and 
construction technique and materials are the same in both buildings. The similarity is 
so strong that it can be suggested that both buildings were planned and built by the 
same architect. 

No artifacts belonging to Khazal has survived in Deewanieh, but some evidence 
can illuminate his private identity, since the building has been the context of his 
practice (Wylie 2002). For example, the building is situated with a view of British 
embassy. From the top floor of Deewanieh the embassy yard can be seen even today, 
even with the addition of new apartments. Khazal could have seen the embassy every 
day if he wished. Furthermore, Khazal chose an architectural style that was common 
for Iranian regional chiefs. These elements suggest that he meant Deewaniwh as a 
way to make him comparable to the Iranian bourgeois. 

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Al Ghanem is comparable to the common style of domestic architecture in 
Qajar Iran, called Arbabi (Manor House). This style is based on an exterior/- 
interior structure, in which the interior parts are mostly used by women. Arbabi 
houses were generally used by high socio-economic statuses in all over Iran 
and especially in the central and southern parts of the country (see Afshar 
Naderi 2008). The plans registered in the Iranian cultural heritage organization 
substantiate this for Iranian Arbabi houses (for example, Aminzadeh house in 
Shushtar (Fig. 8), Nafisi in Khuzestan, and Borojerdi house in Kashan). These 
houses are comprised of a central part surrounded by several rooms and 
galleries, the northern part of these houses mostly end with a large Iwan, 
which is in the middle of two wind towers in the central parts of Iran. Al 
Ghanem is based on this style, even though it has only one tower; other areas 
show a symmetrical style of Iranian domestic architecture. 

It should be noted that the water treatment structure found in the yard can be assumed 
to be derived from the southern Iranian system of water storage (Ab-Anbar), which was 
used until the mid-twentieth century. The name and origin of these buildings' architects 
are not extant in the historical information, but based on the architecture, we can 
hypothesize that Khazal employed Iranian architects, at least to build Al Ghanem. 


What we know about Khazal from history can be summarized in three words: birth, 
peak, and decline. No one has uncovered information about his private life or about 
the women and children who interacted with him every day. His political life was 
heretic, but his way of living, as it appears in the material culture, appears merely as 
one among many "ordinary patterns of everyday living" and "life paths" (Foxhall 
2000, p. 485). Only his political life is well documented. 

Historical data about Khazal are not based on narration, but are only known in the 
chronicles of historical events, the events in which the agents are lost. In this kind of 
presentation, the individual characteristics are only repeated as stereotyped patterns 
and do not represent the real agency of the individuals. It is notable that an individual 
identity shifts and changes throughout a person's lifetime, though there may have 
been multiple levels of identification (Jones and Graves-Brown 1996, p. 18). The 
bulk of the archaeological and historical research, however, still ignores the individ- 
ual (Buchli and Lucas 2001) or considers identity as an unchanging fact. 

Things have no meaning unless meaning is endowed upon them by humans 
(Forchammher 2006; Jones 1997, p. 34), but it seems that the private lives of 
individuals are often omitted in archaeological contexts. An interpretation is usually 
postulated and then a meaning adheres to it. What is forgotten is the unavoidable 
dualism between the individual and society (Johnson 2000, p. 226), especially in 
societies in which individuals have to conceal some parts of their lives to survive. 
Based on this reality, it seems that the only way to learn Khazal's true image is to 
examine his extant material culture. 

What we know of Khazal is a general portrait of his political world, an exterior 
picture which ignores his interior identity. We know little about him beyond his works 
in society and comments that others made about him. 

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12 3 4 5m 

L.....I ■ I ■ I ■ IT1 

Fig. 8 Amin Zadeh House (Courtesy, Iranian Cultural Heritage Archive) 

Khazal selected the Iranian styles of architecture. Based on historical data, it seems 
that he, himself, selected the famous architects of central and southern Iran to build 
his several palaces in Khuzestan and Kuwait. His chosen architectural style was one 
that was common in the Qajarid dynasty, especially among the economically secure. 
Based on the architectural style, it can be assumed that Sheikh wanted to live in 
Iranian spaces, the spaces in which he was raised in. However, it should be noted that 

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the powerful wives of the Sheikh — which mostly originated in the most-famous 
Iranian families — obviously affected his taste. This hypothesis surely cannot be tested 
without ethnological studies (such as interviewing his still living daughters) (for the 
gender agency in non- Western societies, see Diaz-Andreu and Lucy 2005) 

Furthermore, extant pictures show that Khazal changed his style of clothing for 
several times — as Iranian Arabic, Bakhtiaries, Ottoman, Freemason, Kuwait Arabic, 
and ultimately the modern Western one. It is obvious that the form of clothing 
represents status and identity in traditional societies. Was Khazal practicing to act 
in various roles in society? Did he wish to show himself united with others with his 
changes of clothing? 

In traditional Middle Eastern societies, dress conveys cultural messages regarding 
tribal and regional identification or clan affiliation (Stillman 1995). Changing the 
manner of clothing can make serious problems for a person. People learn how and 
where to wear their formal, traditional clothes. Changing one's clothes is one of the 
most basic parameters to changing the ethnicity and identity in a traditional society, 
such as that in Khuzestan. Based on such a traditional manner, it is obvious that a 
personality such as Khazal consciously changed his mode of dress. Furthermore, it 
seems that he preferred to live in places combative to Iranian high status. In fact, the 
material culture suggests that Sheikh had been an Iranian in Arabian clothes, a man 
who was trying to find his new roles in his outfits, and ultimately, the role of the great 
king of the Arabs. 

But what about Sheikh's grandsons, have they been successful in changing their 
identity into Arabs? It seems that they are the victims of their grandfather's decision 
to be the great king of Arabs, the dream which ended with his decline. 

Judging Sheikh as a spy has influenced his grandsons' lives. His elder sons and 
their families chose to live in Great Britain and Europe because of their father's 
wealth, but the younger sons and daughters remained in the Near East. They now live 
mostly in poverty in Kuwait, the country that did not recognize them as citizens. They 
cannot go back to Iran because they are recognized as the daughters and sons of a 
traitor. Most of them do not use the family name of Khazal al Ka'b. 

One day, as I was attempting to throw away the debris from the basement trench in 
Al Ghanem, our driver Amir, who is one of Sheikh's grandsons, was looking at me 
from the top of the trench. "Do not destroy my crazy grandfather's treasures!" he said. 
I replied that there was no treasure, but a lot of rubbish, and I asked him what he 
would do if I found his grandfather's treasure here. He came near me and whispered 
in a Khuzi Persian accent: "I will take them, you, my sister, ride my car and go." 
"Where?" I asked. He pointed at the north; I stood up to see where he was pointing 
and realized that he was pointing to the Persian Gulf. "Iran?" I asked. He confirmed 
and continued: "We will go to Iran with the treasures and you will find a beautiful 
Iranian girl for me to marry." I laughed loudly, saying "but the problem is that your 
grandfather has not left any treasure here." He smiled sadly and I saw a small tear 
shining and falling down his face. 

Acknowledgments This article is the result of an excavation project supported by Kuwait ministry of art 
and culture. The author is grateful to M. Talebian, S. Mokhtari and R. Vatandoust, who introduced me to 
KMAC. I also convey my gratitude to M. Naeemi for her support as field assistant. In addition, I am so 
thankful of N. Tabatabaei and S. Pourhosseini for their support in finding and translating references. I 

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Int J Histor Archaeol 

should also thank J. Neyestani, ICHTO archive director, for his support in finding the documents and J. 
Avadzadeh in "The center for contemporary history research" for his support. I also thank D. Breton SHA 
2010 director for her assistances and helps. It should be noted that any errors in this article are my own. 


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